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Gettysburg Electric Map: No Address

The Battle of Gettysburg saved American civilization from certain destruction. Now free Americans want to see the battle as they had done so for decades: at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, on a big Electric Map.

Unfortunately, it’s gone — split asunder. Or, at least in storage.

Electric Map.The map was a marvel of mid-20th century analog multimedia. Visitors would shuffle into a special 554-seat auditorium, stare down at a 30-foot-square Plaster of Paris rendering of the Gettysburg terrain, and be mesmerized as a sonorous narration told the story while hundreds of light bulbs winked off and on, showing troop movements.

But in 2008, the Battlefield’s management was turned over to a private group named the Gettysburg Foundation. They hated the map. They broke it apart and stuck it in a warehouse. Their two excuses for doing so were 1) that the map had asbestos insulation, and 2) that it was too big to fit into the new visitor center. Which, of course, they designed so that it would be too small to hold the hated Electric Map.

According to the York Daily Record, people who come to Gettysburg still ask to see the map. They’ve been doing it so consistently that the Foundation has announced that it may now bring back the map — as a video. The Foundation apparently filmed the map presentation one last time before they broke the map apart. Now a film is being created “based” on the presentation. It would be shown in the Visitor Center theater, although “there is no timetable for the film’s release.”

Yeah, that sounds like fun. Watching a video of the Electric Map would be like watching Tombstone’s Historama on a counter-top TV — a pale imitation of a pale imitation of reality.

Sections: Attraction News 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Gettysburg Electric Map: No Address”

  1. David Says:
    October 5th, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Lame. This stuff is American history too! I’m sure the room it was in had that smell to it too. One more thing I’ll never be able to see.

    Bleh on you Gettysburg Foundation.

  2. Bill Says:
    October 7th, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    I saw this for the first time 2 years ago, and as silly as it was, I still say someone’s got to save this artifact for posterity. The electric map was a reflection of just how pitiful the Gettysburg Visitor Center was; I never saw a more threadbare carpet than the one that was there. The site needed some major improvement; it was a joke to have Gettysburg represented so badly.

  3. ADalton Says:
    October 11th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    They should sell it to someone who cares. That way the map can be saved, and the Getteysburg Foundation can get some money for something it wants.

  4. James Lehman Says:
    October 16th, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Saw it a loooong time ago. Such a display is superior to a mere video presentation. The ability to stand OVER the terrain and watch the flow of the battles, if only with lights, gives one a better idea of the immensity of the activity involved. it’s hard to imagine the ebb and flow of such things, even maps in history books don’t do it justice, especially for John and Mary Q. Tourist. SHOW me how the thousands of soldiers moved and where they died. Don’t just point to where they died.

  5. Tad Says:
    October 26th, 2009 at 7:18 am

    The Electric Map will never seen the light of day again. It has been cut into pieces and stored in shipping containers on an NPS site at Gettysburg. The Map also contained friable asbestos, and it was this somewhat dangerous. Now, why couldn’t a NEW Electric Map have been created? After all the NPS spent $103 million of private donations and taxpayer funds to create their new visitors’ center at Gettysburg. Their former Supt. John Latschar vetoed the idea, declaring that the concept was “100% antiquated.” Despite his opinion, a state-of-the-art electric map was recently installed at Monocacy Battlefield, just across the MD line from Gettysburg. Maybe there is hope for an Electric Map of some kind now that former Supt. John Latschar has been removed from Gettysburg. In the meantime, visitors may soon be able to sort of view the Electric Map. Before it was destroyed (sorry, I meant to say “dismantled”), the Gettysburg Foundation filmed the old 30-minute Map presentation with an eye to editing it down to a 22-minute presentation. Once this is accomplished, the Electric Map Movie will be shown in one of the two theaters currently showing the new (2008) introductory film and thus give visitors a choice between learning about the battle and being hectored for their complicity in slavery. Please recall that this former Supt. and the NPS stated that visitors did not want to learn “who shot who where” but rather “why they were shooting.” The reader can best answer this question on an individual basis.

  6. Matt Says:
    October 26th, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    This just sucks. I grew up in Gettysburg and went to the electric map more times I want to admit. It was the best. It was like stepping into a 1950s time warp. Of course, there’s still the Eisenhower farm, so the 1950s are still alive and well in Gettysburg.

  7. JackHerman Says:
    October 29th, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Over 30 years ago I attended one of those packed presentations of the Battle of Gettysburg, and that which lead up to it, by the ELECTRIC MAP.
    Whenever the discussion of Gettysburg came up, the ELECTRIC MAP was included, and long before I witnessed it. The spectator became an active participant by immersion, following that colored light progression. One could forget a great Monument upon the hallowed grounds of GETTYSBURG, long before they would forget the ELECTRIC MAP.

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